Australian law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth is dropping the Catholic Church as a client amid reports some of its lawyers were uneasy with the firm representing the church in compensation actions by alleged victims of child sexual abuse.
Corrs confirmed it would no longer represent the Church, saying it was “transitioning away from undertaking personal injury work” to focus on its core areas of commercial legal practice.
“We will be working with the clients affected by this decision to ensure the orderly transition of such matters to new legal advisers. In particular, the firm is committed to ensuring that we protect the interests of our clients and the interests of all parties involved in these matters through this transition,” the firm said in a statement.
“Corrs is working with all clients affected by its decision to transition away from personal injury work. This is an ongoing process, which will take some time.”
The firm declined to comment further. However the Australian Financial Review reported that firm’s lawyers that were increasingly uncomfortable with its work defending the Church against historic child abuse compensation claims.
The AFR also reported that veteran Corrs partner Richard Leder partner who helped establish the Archdiocese of Melbourne’s response to complaints of sexual, physical and emotional abuse by priests 20-years ago, was also leaving the firm.
The Catholic Church and other organisations came under close scrutiny in the the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which examined allegations of historic sexual abuse and the institutions’ responses.
The Church’s so-called “Melbourne response” of 1996 also came under scrutiny.
The Royal Commission found many institutions covered up instances of the sexual abuse of children and moved the perpetrators around rather than have them face prosecution.